Frequently Asked Questions about California’s New Dance Credential Law
We are truly in a new era in California Dance Education. With the passage of SB916, the Theatre & Dance Act of 2016, also known as TADA!, we as a community of educators and advocates have so much to celebrate. As I wrote here on ARTSblog last September, Dance Credentials had not been obtainable in the state of California since 1970—and now they’ve been reinstated again. Yet this hard-earned victory leaves our profession with a new set of questions. Now that we are here, it’s easy to see how much work there is to do. It’s a different kind of work—putting programs in place that have been missing for two generations.
Upon the happy passage of this CA Senate bill, we at the California Dance Education Association began to receive a steady stream of congratulations and questions all mixed together. We found that because of our close relationship to the legislative journey, we were able to rapidly develop a FAQ that, though tentative in many respects, and incomplete for sure, has been helpful to a wide range of CDEA stakeholders from graduate students contemplating their degree choices, to K-12 dance teachers currently holding certification(s), to members positioned in higher ed invested in research, development and hosting the sites for the first credential programs.
So here they are, our most frequently received questions in the first month after the passage of the standalone credentials in dance and in theatre:
Q: TADA! has passed. When will I be able to enter a dance or theatre credential program?
A: We have heard estimates of 3-4 years before new programs commence. California Teaching Commission (CTC) has protocols that will influence our steps, but likely steps include: forming a CDEA Credential Task Force and Credential Coalition; working in parallel with CETA California Educational Theatre Association and the other 4ArtsEdOrg partners in music (CEMA) and visual arts (CAEA); the development of California's dance and theatre credential curricula; the establishment of appropriate tests and proctoring procedures; and norming the programs to align with CA VAPA standards that are due to be updated since AB2862 also passed in September 2016.
Q: If programs will not be ready until a few years from now, am I wrong to pursue a PE credential to teach dance in the meantime?
A: The authorized credential for teaching Dance remains Physical Education until programs are available for teachers to pursue the dance credential. Some current dance teachers have credentials in other academic subjects and an additional Subject Matter Authorization or Supplemental Authorization to teach dance. This allows them to teach dance at some sites in some districts. However, for now, we recommend that teachers obtain the PE credential, eventually considering the additional credential in Dance for maximum flexibility in California, as many middle and secondary school dance programs are connected with PE. Once the dance credential programs have been developed, any teacher who earns this credential can add the PE Credential by passing the PE CSET (subject matter exam). Similarly, PE credentialed teachers will be able to add the Dance credential in the future by passing the eventual Dance CSET.
Q: Will getting a dance credential without a PE credential limit my ability to be hired in the future, especially in rural schools and small school districts?
A: For dance educators seeking to work in under-resourced schools or schools without an established dance program, the PE credential, or any other subject credential, gives their potential employer more flexibility in covering courses and filling out their FTE. Many dance program directors hold credentials in a non-arts, non-PE subject. The disadvantage of having multiple licensures is that you may be asked to teach multiple subjects even if your preference is for teaching dance full-time. This is an unavoidable reality, though the hope is that, over time, the existence of the credential will lead to more full-time dance positions throughout the state, even in smaller districts.
Q: I have a PE credential and teach dance. If I try to change jobs in the future, after dance credentials are available, will my credential be adequate?
A: All current PE-credentialed teachers in CA are grandfathered in as authorized to teach dance for the entirety of their careers. The CTC will set a date at which this will no longer be true for rising PE teachers. They will also determine at what point university students in the “PE Credential Pipeline” will no longer be authorized to teach dance without getting the dance credential. It will be a while before these dates are considered. As a reminder, once the dance credential exists, a teacher holding any other credential can take the Dance CSET to add it to their record.
Q: I have experience/skills in standards development, curriculum alignment, frameworks, and pedagogical strategies in dance education. Or, I am in higher education and have curriculum development, research skills and may be at a potential host site for a new credential program. How can I be involved?
A: We have begun planning for the CDEA Credential Task Force and the CDEA Credential Coalition that will embark in winter of 2017 to help inform the process in parallel with our sister organization in Theatre CETA, California Educational Theatre Association.
We hope this FAQ sheet might be of interest to other arts leaders in states facing similar legislative journeys. We are truly thankful to Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and his colleagues for putting forth this elegant legislation that passed with flying colors. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.